Football is Penns Valley’s sport.
Earlier this month, the Penns Valley Youth Padded Football Team and Cheer program started practicing.
This is the area’s first organized padded team and a program that organizers think will be a staple in the community.
Cheer coach Christina Worrick said a flag football team started 11 years ago, and a padded league was spun off from that after nearly three years in the making.
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President and football coach John Crawford said the program was formed after coaches, parents and kids in the area asked for a team.
“Every other area had a football program and we really wanted to take the initiative to bring one to Penns Valley,” Crawford said. “We knew we had to get some volunteers and do some fundraising, so I really put my nose to the ground and started organizing things.”
It started with partnering with community members and businesses to help sponsor a league.
About $8,000 helped fund helmets, pads and uniforms for 42 players ages 10 to 12 on two teams.
“Everyone was on board and there were four or five of us that hammered down and made it a reality,” Crawford said.
The teams are part of the Juniata Valley Football League, which includes the State College Lions, Little Mingoes, Belltown Bobcats, East Juniata Tigers, Mount Union Trojans, Kish Indians, Lewistown Panthers, McVeytown Knights and Juniata Little Indians.
It also includes a cheer squad for the teams with 14 girls ages 10 to 12, Worrick said.
“We were hoping for eight girls, but ended up getting more,” Worrick said. “So far, it’s been pretty incredible.”
The padded football team is the next step after the flag football team, which has about 30 kids in second, third and fourth grades.
“Looking at flag football, they’re learning the fundamentals and can’t wait to get into pads next year,” Worrick said.
Crawford said he hopes to expand the program in the future.
“We’ve had a tremendous response this year; it’s just the kind of thing this community needs,” he said. “We’ll keep it growing and work out the kinks this year to better the program in the future. It was a long, hard road getting it started, but it’s been well worth it so far.”
The first game is Aug. 24, but a location has not yet been identified, Crawford said. The last game of the season is Oct. 12.